Byline: By TOMOS LIVINGSTONE Western Mail
Wales' young people are moving across the border in search of work while English pensioners come here to retire, Government statistics revealed yesterday. An exhaustive study of migration patterns was published by the Assembly's statistics directorate. It shows, on average, more than 48,000 move across Offa's Dyke to England each year, with nearly 60,000 coming the other way. The statistics are averages of figures collated between 1999 and 2004, and provide the most detailed survey yet of what remains a sensitive political issue.
The majority of those leaving Wales are under 40, with retirees making up a large proportion of the immigrants to Wales. There are some anomalies: Cardiff in particular is attracting twentysomethings from all across Wales, while the high house prices in the Welsh capital appear to account for the numbers moving to the Valleys from the city centre.
The presence of universities in some largely rural areas like Gwynedd and Ceredigion also has the effect of suggesting a more healthy under-25 population than is in fact the case. Most of those retiring to Wales come from the cities of the north west of England or the west Midlands. There are high concentrations in the Conwy coastal region - North Wales overall has the highest level of in-migration - and Pembrokeshire records a high level of population movement in both directions.
The issue of migration from England into Wales has always been a difficult area for politicians, with an understandable wariness to appear anti-English. Plaid Cymru councillor Seimon Glyn caused a storm in 2001 when he suggested English migrants were a 'drain on resources'.
The statistical report shows a 'net outflow' - more people leaving than coming in - among the 16-24 age group, with the exception of South East Wales. Most migrants leave Wales to go to the south west of England while most migrants from England come from the north west.
There is a net inflow of migrants to the Valley region from the South East of Wales, probably due to rising house prices, while at the same time there is a large net outflow from the Valleys to the South West region. However, the Valleys saw the lowest levels of population movement in Wales The report says, 'Across four of the five regions there was a net outflow of migrants to England in the 16 to 24 age group. This group contains students and graduates who move around the country to university and to pursue careers.'
But it adds, 'In South East Wales there was net inward migration from England across all the age groups with the largest number in the 16-24 age group' suggesting Cardiff has a strong attraction for youngsters across the border. The Assembly Government launched its Spatial Plan, tackling planning issues, back in 2004, and it suggests ways of helping each region develop as demographic patterns change. The Assembly points out that many of the youngsters leaving do so to go to university, and there is evidence of thirtysomethings with young families returning, or moving into, Wales.
One specific project, run by the WDA, tracks young people from some rural areas and encourages them to return where possible.
Finance Minister Sue Essex, who has overall responsibility for the Spatial Plan, said, 'The plan acknowledges that in-migration is needed to sustain the population of Wales, and that out-migration of people in the 16 - 24 age group takes place. Scotland is also experiencing a similar situation.
'However, figures also show that over recent years more people aged under 16 have entered Wales than have left and the number of in-migrants who are of retirement age is small. …